5 Ways To Make Camp Coffee

Morning coffee, for many, is an essential part of the daily routine. Camping expert Alex Dolan outlines a few ways to brew a tasty cup of mud out in the wilderness.

A Moka Pot on a camping stove set against an epic mountain backdrop.
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That drip coffee maker on your counter probably doesn’t fit well into your pack, and the nearest Starbucks is, hopefully, nowhere near your campsite. But, if you're like me, morning coffee is an essential part of the daily routine. Here are a few ways to brew a cup of mud without electricity or the common creature comforts of home.

French Press

A French Press containing steaming, freshly brewed coffee.

Perhaps the most popular method of brewing coffee at the campsite is with a French press. It requires no filters, takes about five to 10 minutes to make, and the end product is pretty darn tasty! Take your empty French press, pour in your desired amount of coffee grounds, and fill with boiled water. When you put the lid on, keep the plunger up and let the coffee brew (this will take about five minutes). Then slowly push down the plunger. This will separate the grounds from the coffee. Pour and enjoy!

Pro Tip: A stainless steel French press won’t break like glass and a double-walled system will keep your coffee hotter longer.

Pour Over

A pour-over coffee setup.

Easily rivaling the French press with its final product, the pour over method is a great way to make a solo cup-o-joe on the go, and its ease of use is unmatched. You’ll need a pour over device, a paper filter, a way to boil water and pour it over the grounds, and a container to catch the coffee that comes out (maybe just your coffee cup). Pour a small amount of hot water on the grounds to allow them to bloom, pause, then continue to pour the water slowly and in a circular motion.

Moka Pot

A moka pot on a stove on a rock in front of a bubbling mountain brook. Blue sky, a waiting cup, and a tin of coffee grounds complete the scene.

The moka pot is one of the most popular coffee makers in the world and it makes a pretty darn good cup of coffee. It lasts forever, and if you are a person who appreciates the rituals and subtleties of crafting your morning buzz, you’ll love this method. For best results, boil the water before you pour it into the moka pot, use a towel to twist on the top (it will be HOT when you add the boiling water), then put the moka pot on the stove to finish brewing. This will require an additional pot to boil the water, but it will prevent the moka from burning the grounds. Turn off the burner as soon as rapid small bubbles appear.

Cowboy Coffee

A cup that says "Good for the Sole" on it sits on a camping stove set up on the grass next to a hiker.

This is by far the grittiest brew method, but if you’re a true cowboy, you appreciate true grit (insert spittoon ping here). This method is convenient if all you have is a frying pan and water. Simply pour your desired amount of grounds into the pan, add enough water to fill your cup (maybe a little extra to compensate for evaporation), and then heat it up over the stove or an open fire for the authentic experience. Once the coffee “brews” for a couple minutes, grab your cup and pour. Take as much care as you want to keep the grounds from spilling into your serving. It won’t be the fanciest cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but it will sure put some pep into your step.

Pro Tip #1: Add a splash of cold water before you pour. It settles the grounds to the bottom. Don’t ask me why. Something to do with physics?

Pro Tip #2: If you accidentally brought whole coffee beans on your camping trip without a way to grind them, smash ‘em as best you can with a rock and give the cowboy method a try.

Instant Coffee

An overhead view of a cup of coffee, grounds of coffee swirling within the dark liquid.

Some less die-hard coffee drinkers may think it is just fine to bring some instant coffee for a camping trip, and this is by far the simplest method that requires no special equipment. All you'll need is a heat source and clean water. But if your personal tastes can stand nothing less than good coffee, or maybe you appreciate the art of the brewing process, use one of the simple methods above and get your morning started right.

A nostalgic image of four cups of coffee sitting on the heated grates of an outdoor barbeque-style stove.

There is nothing like wrapping your hands around a hot mug of coffee on a cool morning in the company of the forest. You may even like these methods enough to replace your coffee maker.

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Written By
I have years of experience planning and executing multi day river trips for up to twenty customers at a time, and I've spent countless summer nights living out of my Honda Element. I love moving from river to river, living wherever the water is flowing. ​ I have also toured the San Juan Islands via...

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